The high after Searching for Sugar Man didn’t last long because of Daniel & Ana, a disturbing movie that left a part of me dead.
Ana (Marimar Vega) and Daniel (Dario Yazbek Bernal) are siblings in a tight-knit family. They share an ease that shows the viewer they are good friends outside sharing DNA. Ana is in her early 20s planning her upcoming nuptials. The only snag she’s facing is that her husband-to-be Rafa (José María Torre) would love to relocate to Madrid for a job. Ana won’t leave Mexico nor her family.
Daniel is 16 and exploring his budding sexuality with girlfriend Mariana (Jéssica Castelán). They haven’t gone far but “doing it” is on the horizon. He takes every chance to drive the family car and is angling for his parents to get him his own automobile.
One day, Ana asks Daniel to accompany her on an errand. As they drive there, Daniel misses the turn. In circling the block to return to the street, two armed men jump into the back seat and instruct them to remain calm and follow directions.
(Spoiler Alert: Read at Your Own Risk!)
Daniel and Ana are addressed by name by the men and are forced into the trunk. They are taken to a house where they are made to strip and presented with a choice: either engage in sex with one another or be shot and killed. No explanation is given for how they were known to these men or why they were chosen. After great reluctance and mental anguish, the two are filmed as they have sex. Afterwards, they are dropped off. The two return home. They don’t tell their parents. They don’t discuss what happened. They isolate themselves in the emotional fallout of post-traumatic stress disorder.
Ana tells her fiancé she has doubts and ceases further wedding planning. She avoids Daniel. Daniel skips school, stops talking to his girlfriend and spends a lot of time in bed. As Ana tries to re-gain her life, Daniel spirals. His concerned parents keep removing privileges to get through to him but nothing impact him. He’s catatonic, cares about nothing and gets through his days like a zombie, until the day he loses it with an act of savage consequences.
Daniel & Ana brutalizes you. At the start, the viewer is told that this is a true story, that only the names have been changed. The movie doesn’t explain what the kidnappers/video makers had to gain by making the video, outside of black-market porn profits. Neither victim nor their parents are threatened with exposure. The movie takes a horrific what-if situation, exploits it, shocks the viewer but doesn’t provide any resolution. Reminiscent of a less-artful Michael Haneke film taking similar risks, Daniel & Ana proves less satisfying.
Writer/Director: Michel Franco
Run time: 88 minutes